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What makes a virus dangerous? MCW researcher to investigate

June 5, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to study the ways in which specific viruses become infectious. The research will examine the picornaviruses, a family of medically important viruses, members of which cause diseases ranging from the common cold to viral paralysis and encephalitis in humans, to an economically devastating disease that affects livestock.

William Jackson, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at MCW, is the principal investigator for the grant.

The Jackson Lab studies poliovirus, a model virus for the family, and rhinovirus, the common cold virus. Through collaboration with research groups around the world, their studies have been extended to a wide variety of viruses with severe medical and economic impact.

Recently the lab discovered that an acidic environment in human cells is required for these viruses to change from a non-infectious particle to an infectious virus. The new award will allow the research team to study identify potential therapies targeting acidic compartments in infected cells. Those therapies would reduce the production of infectious viruses, thereby limiting their spread and the resulting illness.

This project is supported by NIH grant R01AI104928.

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